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Four proposals being discussed for Empire Hotel project, decision not expected until 2021

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Members of the Empire Redevelopment Task Force say four proposals are currently being discussed for the Empire Hotel project, but a decision isn’t expected until early 2021.

In September, the city ended its exclusive negotiations with Black Point Investments, which had been in negotiation with the city on the project since 2016. Later that month after forming a task force, Whitney Wallace Williams, the task force’s chair, said interested developers would have until Nov. 9 to submit proposals.

The original plan with Black Point Investments was to redevelop the historic Empire Hotel into 62 market-rate apartments, seven live-work apartments on South Main Street and 13,000 square-feet of commercial space in the former Montgomery Ward space.

Mayor Karen Alexander said the city has since received four interesting proposals with slightly different visions for the project, but there are still questions to be answered before members of the task force can make a decision. Allowing contractors to come to the task force rather than actively seeking specific contractors has resulted in a lot of creativity from potential developers, she added.

Some of the proposals are from local developers.

Among the proposals is the option of selling individual parcels of the property to multiple developers, which opens up a lot of possibilities, Alexander said. However, while the proposal would be among three separate entities, the closing would be done together.

Once the task force decides on a proposal, contractors will want to conduct market studies and put together financial packages to ensure the project is financially feasible for both the city and the contractors, Alexander said.

“We want it to be ‘Salisbury,’ ” she said. “We want it to be authentic. Salisbury is known for its authenticity.”

Whoever is awarded the project must be prepared to execute the contract and provide a hard money deposit of at least $50,000 within three months, Wallace Williams said in September. Additionally, the developer must submit a construction timeline within six months of being notified they will develop the project.

The hotel’s location is in an Opportunity Zone. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Salisbury Historic District, listed as a local historic landmark and is now eligible for historic tax credits.

DSI chair and member of the task force Gianni Moscardini said the group has met often to discuss the project, but that it’s not an easy decision. The task force plans to meet at least a couple more times before Christmas.

“We are moving,” he said. “I’m very comfortable that we are moving in the right direction.”

In addition to Wallace Williams, Alexander and Moscardini, other members of the task force include Salisbury Community Planning Director Hannah Jacobson, City Councilman Brian Miller, philanthropist Ed Norvell, art museum developer and former educator Janine Evans-Davis, Tonyan Grace Boutique owner Tonyan Grace, DSI board member Samantha Haspel, DSI board member Davis Cooke and Luke Fisher, of Fisher Realty. Consulting community partners include Rowan Economic Development Commission CEO and President Rod Crider along with Tourism Development Authority Director James Meacham, Rowan County Chamber of Commerce President Elaine Spalding and Historic Salisbury Foundation Executive Director Sada Stewart.

Alexander said a recent decision by Integro Technologies to expand its existing facility, create 30 new jobs and invest $2.67 million in equipment and improvements is exciting because it further increases the demand for residential space downtown.

“All of that (economic development) in the community is encouraging to developers,” she said.

Integro Technologies, an industrial automation company, is located at 301 S. Main St.

“We want to make sure we do the right thing for the city,” Moscardini said. “We live in a town that’s proud of its history.”

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the current members of the Empire Redevelopment Task Force. 

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